Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Real People on Plastic-free Month

During February, Rodale challenged people to try to live plastic-free for the month. Read about some of the experiences of people who tried this.

Even if you don't go completely plastic-free, incorporating some of their ideas to reduce plastic usage will help our environment, especially the oceans, which receive a great deal of our plastic debris. Learn more about this problem and why individual actions make a difference.

Image courtesy of 5 Gyres Project.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Committee Forming

Our friends Jesse Oldham and Patrick Kwan, who are trying to start an Animal Welfare committee at the Coop, are finally on the agenda for a vote. Please attend the Tuesday, March 29 General Meeting if you want to help vote this committee into existence. Please pass on the information to others who may be interested in this committee. More information about the upcoming agenda is on page 10 of the March 10 Linewaiters' Gazette.

While the Environmental Committee is very concerned with the conditions of the farms we use to supply eggs, dairy, chicken and meat, sources of fish, and other products that contain animal ingredients, we have limited resources to delve too deeply in these matters. Jesse and Patrick both work for large non-profits (ASPCA, Humane Society) and will be able to research and provide the Park Slope Food Coop members and coordinators with much more information than we can. We look forward to working with them.

You can email Jesse and Patrick at if you have any questions about the committee.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Are Regulations for Sustainable Fish Farming Just a Red Herring?

Last month the U.S. Dept. of Commerce (DOC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued draft guidelines for deep water ocean fish farming with the stated goal of supporting sustainable practices. However, the primary purpose appears to be creating a regulatory structure to encourage rapid expansion of ocean fish farming. According to the agencies’ joint press release, the new policy, which they plan to finalize by the end of this year, will “increase the U.S. supply of healthy seafood, create jobs in coastal and other communities [and] spur innovation in technology.”

This is troubling, because fish farming is exploding worldwide and ocean fish farms are, essentially, the factory farms of the sea, raising many of the same environmental concerns that beef, poultry and swine CAFOs arouse. According to the nonprofit advocacy group Food and Water Watch (FWW), NOAA wants “to establish a $5 billion fish farming industry” that “could emit waste equal to the untreated sewage of about 17.1 million people — over twice the population of New York City.”

Ocean fish farms are enormous submerged cages filled with highly concentrated groups of live fish. Uneaten fish feed, fish waste, antibiotics and chemicals used in this “farming” process are all released directly into the ocean. Farmed fish often escape into open waters, where they can breed with and spread disease to wild fish.

There is certainly an argument for regulating ocean fish farming because farmed fish now comprise the majority of fish eaten by people, a trend likely to grow as wild fish stocks continue to dwindle. While much of the farmed fish currently consumed are fresh water species grown in tanks on land, the pressure to move fish farming off-shore is immense because the potential profit, driven by consumer demand for salt water species, is enormous.

However, just as is the case with other animal products, unbridled consumer demand for fish bears examination. There is a widespread misconception, supported by multi-million dollar agribusiness marketing campaigns, that more food – and in the case of fish and meat, more protein-rich food – is needed to feed a growing world population. However, the explosion in the consumption of meat and fish is actually due, not to population increases, but to the fact that individuals in the most well-off nations are eating far more animal protein (and far more food, in general) than has been the case throughout human history and far more than is considered healthy by any nutritional standard.

As Joel Bourne reported in National Geographic back in 2009, in China the amount of pork consumed per person per year rose 45 percent in 12 years. In the United States, the amount of chicken eaten per person each year rose from 21 pounds to 86 pounds between 1950 and 2005, while the amount of beef scarfed down by the average American rose from 44 pounds to 65 pounds annually, according to the Humane Society. Similarly, average fish consumption per person rose from 22 pounds in the 1960s to more than 36 pounds per person in 2005 and is doubtless higher today. Yet, while meat and fish production and consumption continue to grow, both hunger and obesity are on the rise, belying the idea that this growth in consumption is due to an increasing world population. Put simply, more people who can afford to are simply eating
too much.

Given this consumption picture, and coupled with what we know about the environmental costs of ocean fish farming, any regulations aimed primarily at expanded factory farming in the world’s oceans warrant scrutiny. That’s why last spring U.S. Senator David Vitter of Louisiana introduced a bill to delay further development of ocean fish farming for several years while requiring the government to collect and analyze information about the potential effects on the environment, fishermen and coastal communities. However, that bill gathered no cosponsors and has not been reintroduced during the current session. Meanwhile, last August a federal district court ruled that a lawsuit to stop ocean fish farming cannot go forward in the absence of federal regulations. Those regulations have now been published in draft form. Public comments are being accepted through April 11.

- image of workers harvest a mussel raft in Shelton, Washington courtesy of NOAA Aquaculture Program
- image of submerged fish farm cage courtesy of Scientific American
- image of fish farm cage courtesy of Digital Tawain

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Electronics Recycling in Park Slope

Responsibly recycle unwanted or broken electronics at one of these upcoming events (no microwaves or refrigerators). Find a list of acceptable materials here. Sponsored by the Lower East Side Ecology Center, which is planning even more events for April, so visit their site for more info!

Saturday, March 19, 10am-4pm
Where: 5th Ave b/t 3rd & 4th Sts, Brooklyn

Saturday, March 26, 10am-4pm
Where: 5th Ave b/t Sterling Pl. & Douglass St., Brooklyn

Monday, March 14, 2011

GASLAND screening in Brooklyn

If you have not seen the Academy Award-Nominated film, GASLAND, a local showing will be held Monday, March 14 at 7pm.

Learn more about the horrors of the dangerous, Halliburton-developed method of natural gas extraction, "fracking", which could threaten the NYC water supply.

GASLAND @ The Commons
388 Atlantic Avenue between Hoyt and Bond Streets
March 14th at 7pm
$5 Suggested Donation (no one turned away)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

PSFC Bicycle Raffle

The Coop is having a bike raffle (and other prizes) to support the Chenango Delaware Otsego Gas Drilling Opposition Group. We had a bike donated by Cliff Bars and decided that we wanted to direct the money raised to a campaign that is very important to the future of food in the Coop (and also campaign endorsed by the GM).

The tickets will be sold for $5 each and will go on sale beginning Monday, March 14.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Use-Less-Plastic Tip: Learn From Your Trash

Here's how to generate your own personal plastic-reduction list.  This idea continues the use-less-plastic theme from an earlier post.

Let your trash show you what you need to change.  Make your plastic trash easy to examine by separating all plastic (yes, including recyclables) from other trash into its own container as you throw it away. 

This is especially important if you're throwing away food rather than composting, or if you have a smoker in your household.  Anything  smelly, rotting, or dirty mixed in with your plastic will be a great excuse not to take that plastic out and examine it.  You want to look at it all; set it up so that you actually will.

For a complete view of your plastic usage, bring home and include plastic trash you generate at work and commuting. When your container is full, empty it on your floor and see what you've got.  Make stacks of different plastic items. You may want, depending on your household, to look at one day of trash, or a week, even a month.  (First time for me was one day; two subsequent studies included about a month of plastic each.)

Do a written tally to capture the information you find.  How many plastic forks?  How many small bulk plastic bags?  larger bulk bags?  styrofoam cups? bottle caps? disposable razors?  yogurt containers?  whatever your trash contains? From your tally, it will be easy to make a list of things you want to change. 

Post your list somewhere conspicuous; mine's on my fridge door, where I see it daily. My list is a work in progress.  In the year-plus since I first created it, I have slowly crossed items off as I discover and start practicing non-plastic alternatives.  Also I have continued to add to the list as I use up longer-lasting products like dish soap.

Even though I'm still far from 100% at delivering on the Plastic-Free Pledge I made, now I can review my list, choose another change to make, start figuring out how to do it, and see that I am making progress.

Most recently, after months of gathering information (read:  procrastination), I finally made my first veggie burgers to replace those convenient frozen plastic-wrapped ones I'd bought for years, which regularly added another piece of throw-away plastic wrap.  My first homemade burgers:  yum! cheap! no plastic!

Time to sign off now:  gotta find out why I can't buy bulk tofu in the co-op, unlike in some Asian markets.  The world doesn't need that discarded plastic tofu packaging, but I do want my organic non-GMO tofu.

Did you have an experience studying your plastic trash that you want to discuss?  Do you have a plastic-reducing tip to share?  Please let us know.

Both No Impact Week and My Plastic-Free Life (formerly Fake Plastic Fish) have good information on learning from your trash.

Photo courtesy of Fabi Fliervoet, flickr